India’s Jet Airways set to cut flights on Gulf routes

Jet Airways will cancel 40 flights a week on seven Gulf routes from Wednesday, as the struggling carrier continues to reduce operational costs by cutting services on unviable routes.

A spokesperson for the Indian carrier told Arabian Business that the airline is realigning some of its point-to-point flights from certain destinations in the Gulf, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Doha, through its hubs in Mumbai and Delhi.

Instead of a direct flight from Muscat to Trivandrum, for example, a passenger must now fly to Trivandrum from Muscat via Mumbai, the spokesperson said.

The official said the airline’s decision followed a comprehensive review of its network that will see the carrier move capacity from uneconomical routes to more profitable ones in order to more closely align the capacity offered with the demand characteristics of specific markets.

“As part of this strategy, Gulf operations are being optimised to focus on connectivity at our hubs in Mumbai and Delhi instead of point-to-point connectivity,” the Jet Airways spokesperson told Arabian Business.

Indigo also cancelled its flights from Muscat to Calicut and Chennai, but still operates services to Mumbai, Kochi and Ahmedabad.

A spokesperson for IndiGo could not be contacted for comment.

The cancellations are causing major headaches for tour operators in the region. Instead of direct flights, their passengers now have to fly via Mumbai or Delhi, leading to possible additional costs.

“Christmas and New Year season is one of the busy seasons for us in terms of our tour operations to some of the Gulf countries,” Abraham George, MD of Kochi-based Intersight Tours & Travels, said.

“The sudden withdrawal of flights from some of these routes has put us in serious inconvenience, besides jeopardising our cost calculations.”

Aside from Jet Airways and Indigo, no other Indian carriers are planning  to cancel their flights to any of the destinations in the Gulf region.

In fact, Air India officials said they will be happy to operate additional flights on the routes which Jet and Indigo withdrew from, if they surrender their bilateral rights for these capacities.

“We do not know whether they (Jet and IndiGo) would be surrendering their bilateral rights to DGCA (the Indian aviation regulator) or just cancelling these operations temporarily. If they surrender the capacities, we will definitely look at adding more flights in these sectors,” Air India official spokesman said.

Jet Airways said the airline is only “rerouting the traffic over its hubs in Mumbai and Delhi, instead of point-to-point connectivity”, without providing more details.

The Jet official said the airline will be enhancing its frequencies between Mumbai-Doha, Delhi-Doha and Mumbai-Dubai during its winter schedule.

“It is important to note that the scale of the airline’s operations will remain unaffected. We also acknowledge the interim inconvenience the changes may cause to the travel itineraries of our guests. We would like to reassure them that we will take all measures, including proactive communication and re-accommodations, to minimise such inconvenience,” the Jet spokesperson said.

SpiceJet, another Indian carrier that operates to Dubai and Muscat from multiple cities in India, said it has no plans to cancel or withdraw from any of the routes it currently operates in the Gulf region.

Aviation industry analysts said air fares and passenger load factors have been dropping in some of these Gulf routes, making these operations unfeasible for airlines.

“With mounting losses in their operations in the recent quarter, Indian carriers are taking a hard look at many of the Gulf routes and knocking off routes which are unviable,” Kinjal Shah, aviation sector expert and vice president at ICRA, told Arabian Business.

She also said there could be flight cancellations by airlines from more destinations in the Gulf region going forward.

“This will depend on the cost-return analysis by each airline,” she said.

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